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The romance of birdsong and sunshine

Romance definition: A quality or feeling of mystery, excitement and remoteness from everyday life.

It was an ordinary Wednesday, if you believe in such things. Except this day — planted among two or three rows of cold and cloudy — bloomed bright with sun all day and a forecast temperature in the balmy mid-50s. When serendipity sticks its thumb out like that, I must hitch a ride.

I prodded Lane out of his morning routine and said I’d be by in half an hour. We would revisit a hike from earlier times. In honor of the one week designated for love, I went partly in search of romance — the soul-deep kind one finds sailing over “the high seas” or “riding the rails,” or when listening to crickets chirp on a warm summer night — a sacred variety.

We drove through Ashland and turned onto Tolman Creek Road. Some have guessed by now we were heading toward Oredson-Todd Woods and the 300-acre preserve that includes Siskiyou Mountain Park. The location surprises me as it pops up from nowhere in a neighborhood. A couple of turns and there you are with a small car park and the trailhead beckoning.

As I stared at a long, steep hill, reality sank in that time had indeed sped on since I first tried this, and the easy hike I imagined had bulked up. That first attempt had been a guided tour with lots of nice, slow ambling and descriptions, plus, age happens.

But Lane is a regular hiker of hills, and I tried my best to be a game lassie and stride along. I do so want to be in better shape and I knew this was good for me, like beets. I could see the hilly path climbing onward around a bend, but I continued on faith and soon the trail evened out and I believed I would survive to make up silly song parodies another day.

Once on the soft, bark trail, the wood enfolds and we’re in a different world that parallels the old one but is ages apart. Like walking through a magic portal, the sounds of the city were eclipsed by the music of Clay Creek running alongside. We stopped and listened.

Oredson-Todd Woods is city-owned and dog-friendly, having been given to Ashland by the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy. The complete history, an educational story map, and lists of flora and fauna found there are available on its website, landconserve.org/oredsontodd-woods-siskiyou-mt-park. There’s also a great tree/leaf identifying link for fellow nature nerds. Seven miles of marked trails meander through the trees, but we still managed to veer off the trail and onto a Forest Service road. If you’re an early fan of this column, you may recall the time Lane and I were stuck inside a corn maze any child could master for an interminable length of time. I had to crash through the corn before they sent in a 4-year-old.

The afternoon was perfect until the sad realization that there were no facilities broke through the reverie, as in, no bathrooms. Nothing romantic about that. Oh, yes, there were trees, plenty of trees, and I could be the nature girl I imagine myself to be, but the last time I tried that, I left my phone behind for Bigfoot to figure out. Plus, this particular area of trails is very clear. Underbrush has been removed and trees limbed up in case of fire. So, privacy is at a premium.

After the hike, it was Market of Choice that came to my rescue. Enough. I’m ruining the romantic aspect of this story.

Today and every day, romance is all around and waiting to be discovered in something as pure as birdsong. It’s in abundance for everyone, and there is no shortage.

And now, my Valentine poem for you all.

Roses are pink, daisies are white (with yellow centers),

Love can stink, so I write instead.

Too sentimental? OK, how about this one by Steve Winwood:

“While you see a chance, take it. Find romance.”

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.